A Texas man accused of mowing down a group of pedestrians with his SUV near a Brownsville homeless shelter that attends to migrants has been charged with eight counts of manslaughter, police said on Monday.
Brownsville Police Chief Felix Sauceda said at a press conference that the driver, identified as George Alvarez, 34, ran a red light, lost control of his vehicle, and hit 18 people as the SUV flipped it on its side.
The driver attempted to flee the scene after impact but was held down by several bystanders, Sauceda said. He said that investigators were waiting for toxicology reports on Alvarez.
Responding to a question from a reporter, Sauceda said authorities have not ruled out the possibility that the crash was intentional.
Investigators are working to identify the victims, some of whom were Venezuelan migrants, the chief said.
“It has been a very tiresome process but we are deeply committed to doing and accomplishing,” Sauceda said, adding that his department was working with the Venezuelan government and other embassies.
In a statement on Monday, the Venezuelan government called for an investigation into whether it was a crime of hate and xenophobia.
The city of Brownsville, on the border with Mexico, is one of the places expecting an influx of migrants when COVID-era restrictions expire on Thursday.
Alvarez, who was also charged with 10 counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, has an extensive criminal history, the chief said. Alvarez was being held on $3.6 million bail.
Reuters could not immediately determine whether Alvarez had retained a lawyer.
A video circulating online purporting to show the crash shows a speeding SUV plowing into a row of people sitting on the curb. A second video of the aftermath appears to show victims lying on the ground, some bloodied and writhing, while others lay motionless.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the videos.